CATHOLIC bishops have come under fire from TDs for their staunch opposition to allowing abortion for pregnant rape victims.
Some of the most stinging remarks came from Fine Gael TDs and senators who would traditionally have been reluctant to attack the Catholic Church in public.
The hierarchy's representative, Bishop of Elphin Reverend Christopher Jones,
was also criticised for using "offensive" and "disturbing" language in
his submission on the final day of the Oireachtas Committee hearings.
One Labour senator even went so far as to accuse the bishops of
opposing abortion legislation due to a hatred of women.
Ivana Bacik accused the Catholic bishops of opposing the legislation due
to their underlying belief in the "innate deceitfulness of women" and
Bishop Jones said the church wanted a society in which
all are equally cherished and respected. He said though it was a
traumatic situation for a young girl to be pregnant after being raped,
nothing justified the taking of a life of an unborn baby in such a
"We claim that we must
protect the innocent, voiceless and powerless unborn child in the womb.
The solution of taking that life is no solution," he said.
Gael Meath East TD Regina Doherty said she was at a loss why the
Catholic Church was putting "both lives at risk" by giving no option
when a rape victim was suicidal.
Fine Gael Dublin South Central TD
Catherine Byrne said she found some of the language used in Bishop
Jones's submission to be offensive.
Bishop Jones repeated the
bishops' opposition to legislating for the 1992 Supreme Court X case,
which allowed for abortion in the case of a suicidal pregnant teenage
rape victim. And he insisted that the Catholic Church was opposed to the
deliberate killing of an unborn baby – and not life-saving treatment
for a mother.
"This is different from medical treatment to save
the life of the mother where there is no other option and where
intervention does not intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn
baby," he said.
Bishop Jones, who set up the Catholic Church's
crisis pregnancy agency Cura in 1977, said any suggestion that Ireland
was an unsafe place for pregnant mothers due to the ban on abortion was a
"complete distortion of the truth".
The Oireachtas Health
Committee also heard the positions of other key religions in Ireland.
The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Dr Michael Jackson
said his church opposed abortion but recognised there were exceptional
cases of strict medical necessity where it should be an option.
of the Methodist Church and the Jewish community supported the
availability of abortion where a mother was suicidal.
But Dr Ali Selim
of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland said this was not permissible
under Islamic law.